Building Integrated Solar Photovoltaics (BIPV)
Building integrated solar photovoltaics refers to a broad group of solar energy materials used directly in the construction of buildings. Around the world, there are buildings that use solar photovoltaics in roofing, shading (e.g. awnings) and other building materials.
One of the most impressive examples of this is the building at 4 Times Square, New York City. This office tower on the busiest square in the world's busiest city integrates solar photovoltaic materials right into the structure of the skyscraper. It's highly revered in the world of solar architecture and fits right in with world class developments around it.
For consumers, there are a number of ways to integrate solar energy systems right into the building materials of your home.
Solar electric roofing tiles
Solar electric roofing tiles (or shingles) are solar cells that look very much like regular slate shingles. In 2005, Kyocera debuted MyGen Meridian building integrated solar photovoltaics, part of a growing number of products available for consumers. These inter-locking tiles look great, save energy and reduce greenhouse gases.
This home in California uses a solar awning. The PV array has a double function-- collecting energy from the sun while at the same time providing shading for the patio.
Retrofitting may be a more costly aspect of building integrated solar photovoltaics, but with increases in state financing incentives and growing interest among construction tradespersons, integrating solar into your home is becoming more feasible all the time.
The bigger picture
Building integrated solar should really be part of a larger picture of a solar integrated home that would also include:
- Passive solar design
- Energy efficiency, including solar control windows and more.